The accelerated progress of Vatican Council II gives real cause to expect that four schemas will be adopted before the end of this current session, according to Father Hans Kueng.
The Swiss-born theologian, a council expert, asserted in an interview with the N.C.W.C. News Service that the council drafting committees were making major strides forward in the last days of October, partly as a result of their “burning the midnight oil.”
“We can be fairly certain,” Father Kueng said, “that the council will approve the final texts of the schemas on Divine Revelation, the nature of the Church, on ecumenism, and on the pastoral duties of bishops. The Jewish statement is now likely to be incorporated in the schema on the Church without detracting from its original intent. And the religious liberty statement — after final consultation about it between Augustin Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat (for Promoting Christian Unity) and the Theological Commission — is now about ready to go to press. Thus all these documents may soon be approved on the council floor.”
Father Kueng said that this would be a notable achievement for the third session in itself. But he added: “There is more than that, as I see it. Great progress already has been secured by this council in these specific respects:
“1. The council has clearly upheld the goals set by Pope John by refraining from doctrinal definitions which might have closed doors to further dialogue.
“2. Numerous doors have been opened through the unfettered council debates with the whole world listening in, which was certainly not possible before the council opened.
“3. A broad spiritual opening has occurred within the Church, especially in regard to other Christians, to Jews and non-Christians generally.
“4. The liturgical reform inaugurated in the first session is now sealed by decrees which will go far toward providing new incentives for the meaningful participation by the faithful in worship everywhere. The schemas to be adopted in this session will further accentuate these gratifying trends which are bound to promote ecumenism in all fields through Scriptural grounds.
“5. There can no longer be any standstill, because the movement toward renewal, now initiated with such vigor and determination, will be carried on toward even greater progress by its own power.
“6. The supreme world council of bishops under and with the Pope is certain to come into being, and will bring about the much-desired internationalization and decentralization of the Roman curia. The whole Church as represented in the council — and a large sector of the other Christian Churches as well as public opinion the world over — is backing the initiatives of this council. This will help promote the effectiveness and ultimate success of such a bishops’ council.”
Father Kueng concluded: “We can be confident that the council’s decisions will not remain just dead letters. We now stand at the beginning of a hopeful new epoch of the Church.”
Father Placid Jordan, O.S.B.
NCWC News Rome Correspondent